The Last Dance was originally formed in 1990 in the Southern California city of Fountain Valley by schoolmates Rick Joyce (Guitar) and Jeff Diehm (Vocals). Soon after they were joined by Ian Haas (Drums) & Tony Tullai (Bass).
Inspired by UK post-punk bands of the 80’s like Southern Death Cult, The Mission & U2, as well as their SoCal peers like London After Midnight & Christian Death, they set out to create their own brand of dark & passionate rock music, one that paid tribute to their inspirations yet called upon other varied influences as well as their own personal musical & spiritual inclinations to give them their own unique & personal voice.
The initial line-up of TLD as they are often called by longtime fans & the band themselves, did 2 self-recorded cassette releases during these formative years: “Everyone” & “Angel”, before original bassist Tony Tullai left the band to focus on his work as the guitarist for The Prophetess, a band in which Joyce also performed, interestingly enough, as bassist.
In 1994, Tullai’s official replacement was found. In what seemed to be a regular practice of instrument swapping within the group & their inner circle, Peter J. Gorritz, who had been playing guitar in the Central California dark rock band The Shroud when he first met Joyce & Diehm, stepped in as bassist, a role he has played ever since.
The recruitment of their new bassist brought a new sound to the band, one that was slightly more aggressive, emphasized the bass as more of a rhythm section instrument, & benefited from a broader set of influences as well as a larger & more varied fan base. Taking advantage of new digital technology, the band started releasing material in CD format, beginning with the EP “Tragedy” (Apollyon Records) released in 1995.
1995 also marked the first of TLD’s many ventures into international waters, when they were invited to play in Mexico City, where a vibrant & passionate scene dedicated to dark underground music had been sprouting. Soon, afterwards however, founding member Haas also left the fold, resulting in the band performing & recording with several different drummers for the next 3 years, foremost amongst them Dan Kaiahua, with whom they recorded the full-length CD “Fairytales” & did their first U.S. tour, & Tom Coyne, who had played with Joyce in the Prophetess & went on to become a regular “roving” member of the TLD family, joining them for their first U.K. performance (Sacrosanct-1997) & helping out whenever they needed someone to do a recording or show, a tradition that continues today.
In 1998, Ivan Dominguez became the permanent official drummer for the band, playing & recording with them up until his untimely death in Belgium during their 2002 European tour. This lineup, which also briefly included Keyboardist/Guitarist Robert Schott, was captured on the 1999 album “Perfect” & set what would become the standard for TLD’s unique blend of traditional rock energy & instrumentation mixed with New/Dark Wave & electronic music influences. This happy & productive period, though it ended on a sad note, is one which the band remembers with great fondness. During this time, the band became more than just a group of friends working & having fun together; to the individuals involved, it became a sort of extended family, with “band” life & the members personal lives becoming inextricably entwined. 4th of July concert parties & Christmas celebrations where fans mingled with family members became a much cherished tradition & the members of TLD were rarely apart for more than a few days at a time. This period of closeness would prove to be the all-important glue that would hold the surviving band members together in the wake of the loss of their band-mate & “brother”. Instead of leading to the bands demise, Ivan’s death led to a rebirth of sorts that resulted in their most determined, prolific & successful period to date. 2003 was a landmark year for TLD. Determined not to let tragedy undermine everything they had worked so hard to achieve, Diehm, Joyce & Gorritz retreated a bit into their own personal spaces, but continued to work & write music together, taking advantage yet again of available technology to share ideas & files over the internet. The result was the album “Whispers In Rage”, a wildly diverse, aggressive & personal album that saw Tom Coyne returning again to help out on drums & featured notable guest performances from Rachel McDonnell (The Cruxshadows) on violin and Mera Roberts (Mercurine) on Cello. It was the first of a series of recordings released through Dancing Ferret discs, best known at the time for being the label that was home to The Cruxshadows & Ego Likeness, both of whom were bands that TLD had been friends with for many years at that point. The remix disc “Reflections Of Rage” followed shortly thereafter, featuring remixes by the aforementioned Ego Likeness, Cyrus Rex, Thomas Rainer, Corvus Corax & many others.
For the next 6 years, the band, along with the always reliable Tom Coyne & another semi-regular drummer Stevyn Grey (Mephisto Waltz, Frankenstein), continued to tour & build its fan base, doing many treks across the U.S. & Europe, playing with The Cruxshadows & Bella Morte among others & doing such notable festivals & events as Wave Gotik Treffen, Whitby Gothic Weekend, Judgement Day, DragonCon & Draculas Ball. They also released the album “Once Beautiful” (which featured performances by Switchblade Symphonies Tina Root & Mercurines Mera Roberts), the compilation “Now & Forever After”, did a video with renowned director Sandy Collora (Batman Dead End) & were the subjects of the 2007 documentary film “Almost Beautiful” by director Rocky Costanzo who had accompanied & filmed the band on their 2005 U.S. tour.
In 2009 another important transitional period began for the band. After so many years of hard work, joy & tragedy, the 3 core members of the band had reached a point where they were emotionally & physically burnt out. Though there was never any serious discussion of ending things, they did fewer shows & very little recording for more than 5 years, focusing instead on getting their own personal lives back on track. Gorritz left California for the southwestern deserts of Tucson, Arizona, followed shortly afterwards by Diehm who moved to Virginia & eventually by Joyce who lives in the United Kingdom Honorary TLD’er Tom Coyne remained in California, & continued to play & record with the band whenever they needed him, but spent most of this period playing with or filling in for the regular drummers of such bands as 45 Grave, The Nathaniel Johnstone Band & most recently, Bella Morte.
We now come to 2015 & the upcoming release of the newest TLD album “Ruins” through the bands own label Mystine Records in conjunction with Strobelight records who will be the albums distributor in select European countries. Though the band has been largely out of the public eye for several years, that does not mean they have been idle. Diehm & Joyce have both released discs with their respective side projects Autumn Cannibals & Sapphire Solace, while Gorritz has focused on his work as a soundtrack composer & songwriter. All 3 have likewise been collecting ideas that they felt were best suited for an eventual TLD release & these ideas plus newer ideas that have been thrown into the mix this year will comprise the next chapter in the ever evolving TLD saga. Tom Coyne has been called upon to help out on drums again, this time also adding the title of co-writer to his credits. “Ruins”, which has been inspired by & will be dedicated to a longtime fan who reached out to the band earlier this year, is looking to be one of the bands strongest releases in many years; the band members themselves are quite elated to be working on new music again & there is a strong sense of rejuvenation in the air that has many longtime fans eagerly expressing their anticipation & excitement towards the idea of finally hearing new music from these dark music veterans. Only time will tell what the future will hold, but one thing’s for sure: TLD are back & better than ever & if you haven’t had the privilege of hearing their music before, you owe it to yourself to experience The Last Dance!
Featured Images and Biography From: www.thelastdance.com